Say YES to packing your bags to move across the country

Photo of Matsui Washington Fellow Courtney Kirkland

Participating in UCDC as a Matsui Washington Fellow gave me my second opportunity to intern in Washington, DC. I spent my first internship at the U.S. Department of State in Summer 2019 and my second internship at the U.S. Agency for International Development in Spring 2020. In both roles, I was given meaningful, high level-work that allowed me to learn so much about the day-to-day work of diplomacy and U.S. international development programs. I also had wonderful supervisors who understood the balance of the learning curve that new interns go through, as well as the growth that comes from being challenged with important tasks and projects. My colleagues were so helpful when I had questions and were also great points of contact in terms of seeking career advice and looking for opportunities as a new grad.

While professional and political experiences are to be expected from interning in DC, I was surprised by how much I grew and learned about myself during the process. Living in DC gave me a confidence boost I didn’t know I needed and also introduced me to so much that I didn’t know was out there. I’m from a really small town of 2,000 people in Northern California and all of my goals have been confined to local opportunities - I never dreamed bigger because moving to another city felt so out of reach and so impossible. Creating a new chapter of my life in DC showed me that I really can move across the country and enjoy all that a new city has to offer. I met so many amazing new friends who are local to the area, dined at so many cool restaurants, tried new food, began writing poetry for the first time, indulged in happy hours with colleagues, and enjoyed DC nightlife. I’ve fallen in love with DC and also feel that much of the country has been opened up to me. I’m excited to visit more U.S. cities and feel confident enough to apply to full-time positions around the country after graduation - something I would have never done prior to interning in DC. I also learned so much about managing long distance friendships, building a work-life balance, being attuned to my mental and physical health needs, and prioritizing my well-being and happiness.

Being in DC in Spring 2020 was challenging because of the exceptional circumstances that occurred this semester: I had complications with wisdom teeth surgery, Kobe and Gigi Bryant passed away in a helicopter accident (hence the picture of me honoring Gigi on International Women’s Day), the Coronavirus pandemic reached the US, and we saw the beginning of an economic crash. Following the recommendations of health officials monitoring the pandemic, our semester in DC was cut short and we had to fly home to California. May this crazy time serve as another humble reminder that life is short and can change at any moment - hug your loved ones, chase your dreams, meet new people, and say YES to packing your bags to move across the country. I studied abroad in Ghana and participated in UCDC and both have changed the course of my life in ways I never could have imagined. If you are considering either - do it!!

I’m thinking of all those who are affected in one way or another by COVID-19. Our health and safety is of utmost importance and I send my deepest thanks to our healthcare and essential workers. Sending my love to everyone during this time. Thank you to the Matsui Washington Fellowship for supporting my internship experience this Spring. I appreciate it so much and look forward to reading about the adventures of future Matsui fellows here on the website.